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This study investigated the effect of cold water immersion (CWI) on the recovery of muscle function and physiological responses following high-intensity resistance exercise. Using a randomized cross-over design
10 active men performed high-intensity resistance exercise followed by one of two recovery interventions:
- 10 min of cold water immersion at 10°C
- 10 min active recovery (low-intensity cycling).
After the recovery interventions, maximal muscle function was assessed after 2h and 4h by measuring jump height and isometric squat strength. Submaximal muscle function was assessed after 6h by measuring the average load lifted during six sets of 10 squats at 80% 1RM. Intramuscular temperature (1 cm) was also recorded, and venous blood samples were analyzed for markers of metabolism, vasoconstriction and muscle damage.
CWI did not enhance recovery of maximal muscle function. However, during the final three sets of the submaximal muscle function test, the participants lifted a greater load following CWI compared with active recovery.
During CWI, muscle temperature decreased 6°C below post-exercise values, and remained below pre-exercise values for another 35 min. Venous blood O2 saturation decreased below pre-exercise values for 1.5 h after CWI. Plasma myoglobin concentration was lower, whereas plasma interleukin-6 concentration was higher after CWI compared with active recovery.
These results suggest that cold water immersion after resistance exercise allow athletes to complete more work during subsequent training sessions, which could enhance long-term training adaptations.